Monthly Archives: September 2015

Why Visit Charlotte, North Carolina


Charlotte, North Carolina has been mentioned a lot lately in “best of” rankings throughout the United States:

  • No. 3 Top Moving Destinations, January 2015 United Van Lines of all states
  • No. 1 Most Entrepreneurial Cities, December 2014 Global Trade Magazine of 50 cities
  • No. 2 Fastest-Growing Big Cities in the U.S., December. 2014 U.S. Census Bureau of 34 cities
  • No. 2 Best Cities for Recent College Graduates, April 2014 of 100 cities with highest apartment availability
  • No. 4 Most Affordable Destinations for 2015, December 2014 of 15 cities
  • No. 9 Best Cities to Start a Career, May 2014 of 150 largest U.S. cities

Earlier this month, I decided to see for myself what all the hype is about! Even in my short day long trip, I was impressed with how modern Charlotte was, with city parks, sustainable transportation options, great restaurants, and fun nightlife.


Below are some highlights of “must-sees” and “must-dos” when you plan your next trip to Charlotte, North Carolina:

The Epicentre: What an amazing idea! It’s like a mall, but includes all entertainment options you could ask for in an open air space (restaurants, a bowling alley, piano bar, country bar, rooftop dance floor, and more!). I most enjoyed dancing to my favorite songs from the 90’s at the Howl at the Moon Piano bar and today’s hits at the 210 rooftop bar.


Fine Dining with a VIew: Experience all of Charlotte from the sky with spectacular views and delicious cuisine at Bentley’s on 27. I had a surprise dinner date here and was taken aback by the Charlotte sunset and cityscape, incredible French onion soup and goat cheese salad, French wines, and beautiful old-fashioned candles!


Run through the City Parks: When I first arrived to the city, I knew I had limited time and wanted to explore the surroundings. Running is a perfect way to do just that! I ran through the center city and the local parks, including Independence Park (one of Charlotte’s original city parks from 1904) and Arequipa Park (has a decorative fountain and beautiful mature trees). Charlotte strikes a nice balance between a modern city and nature preservation, with several trees and greenscapes scattered throughout the city. As a nature lover who also likes to be in the center of a city, I really appreciated the combination! The parks advertised several city events, which made me excited to go back and visit.


The Brewery Scene: Charlotte has several popular breweries, including NoDa Brewing Company, Birdsong Brewing Company, Heist Brewery, Growlers Pourhouse, and Salud Beer Shop. It also has one of the best beer gardens in America (VBGB), with a giant sized chess and Connect 4 and a frost rail to keep your beer cold. I enjoyed sampling some of the beers, including the very unique (and spicy!) Birdsong Jalapeno IPA at the Ri Ra Irish Pub. Charlotte’s tourism website has a whole beer city itinerary designed for you!

Nascar Hall of Fame: Feeling the need for speed? Charlotte is famous for its speed racing heritage. The Nascar Hall of Fame is one of the world’s most interactive and high-tech halls of fame in the world with four floors of 31 cars and close to 1,000 artifacts. In my quick trip, I was not able to visit this, but would love to go back and visit one day, especially with my Motor City roots!



I had a wonderful time in Charlotte and now understand why it is one of the hotspots in the U.S. I look forward to going back in the near future! If you have any other recommendations for a visit to Charlotte, please add them in the comments below!


Try the World – From the Comfort of Your Own Kitchen!


How many of you have heard of Plated, Try the World, and Home Chef? For those of us with limited time and an interest in learning new recipes from around the world, these companies provide great opportunities for us. Over the past couple months, I have enjoyed being able to “try the world” by purchasing ingredient kits or prepared meals online. While they may seem expensive and risky at first, they all have promotional rates. I encourage you try them to spice up your kitchen routine!

My experience began with a trial of Plated (fresh ingredients and recipes sent to my door), including the following:

  • Beef and Summer Squash Empanadas with a Tomato, Pesto, and Basil Salad: This absolutely delicious meal and easy-to-make recipe was a great way for me to get a taste of Latin America. All ingredients were sent to my door, and I just had to chop the vegetables, prepare the empanada dough, and bake the empanadas for 30 minutes. The only part I did not like was the tomatoes were under-ripe, which made the tomato salad not as flavorful as normal.
  • Garlicky Chicken with Capers, Anchovy, and Caramelized Summer Squash: I was impressed by the flavors in this meal which gave me a taste of Italy. Prep time took 20 minutes and cooking time took 20 minutes. Of all the Plated recipes I have tried, this was the easiest to prepare and had the most flavor. Sounds like an ideal cooking experience, right?


  • Grilled Pork and Peach Skewers with Maple, Peach Mostarda, and Arugula: This recipe took the most prep time (40 minutes), but it was a great way to get a taste of the tropics. I could pretend I was in Hawaii again! I enjoyed the flavors, but would recommend cooking this recipe when you have leisurely time to actually enjoy the cooking process.

Then, on somewhat of a whim, and inspired by my multinational enterprise management class, I decided to Try the World. This was very expensive, but the trial made it affordable and I would recommend that you at least experience the trial!


  • Taste of Japan: Uncharted territory in my personal travel map, Japan has always sparked my interest and I was eager to try Japanese flavors. I received an adorable box, which reminded me of a larger version of a Tiffany box, full of Japanese goodies. The box included Aoi Tea, Otafuku Foods kit (omelette-like pancake with variety of savory toppings), Morinaga (milk caramels), Takaokaya (seaweed snack), Akagi (soba noodles), Kasugai (gummy candies), and Wadakan (umami ponzu sauce). I was most curious to try the Takaokaya, as I had never tried seaweed as a snack before. The texture was a bit chewy, but the salty flavor was delicious. Also, as a kid at heart, I went straight for the Kasugai gummy candies, which had a delicious peach flavor. The box also included recommendations for how to use the ingredients, including hosting a tea party and having a romantic dinner date. I look forward trying the recipes and planning a Japanese dinner date.


  • Taste of Paris: My second “Tiffany box” (lucky girl :)?), came with treats from France: Palais Des Thes (fine tea), La Mere Poulard (cookies), Domaine Des Vignes (mustard), Le Sunier De Camargue (finishing salt), La Maison Peltier (artisan honey), Maison D’Armoine (caramels), and Charles Antona (jam). The box also included a Paris culture guide, explaining the cultural background of each of the items in the box, how to prepare French meals, a recommendation of French cultural landmarks, French poetry and even a recommended French movie and music playlist! In my opinion, there is no better music for cooking than French music, so how perfect that they have a playlist prepared for you. It is very exciting to try the flavors of France again before living in Paris this winter. I particularly enjoy the Domaine Des Vignes mustard, which pairs well with a deli sandwich or as a dipping sauce for pretzels. La Mere Poulard cookies are also perfect when I have a sweet tooth, but am not looking for an overwhelmingly sweet taste. I may be a little biased too, because they are from Brittany, France, which is the origin of my first name! As I study French, I have enjoyed listening to French music. I also look forward to watching some French movies!


Most recently, I decided to try Home Chef, to compare it to Plated. It was interested to read A Common Connoisseur‘s insights, who described Home Chef as a more affordable option, with more meal selections and lower calories options. I will receive my order next Wednesday. I look forward to trying the Apple Cider Brined Salmon and Parisian Bistro Steak. If you are interested, I will be sure to share my insights on this option as well!

After trying the world in my kitchen, I have realized that there are great benefits to trying these options:

Experience new flavors from different parts of the world: If you cannot travel on a regular basis, what better way to get a traveler experience than through food! And you can practice cooking at the same time.

Learn how to combine spices and different food groups: I find it easy to cook, but difficult to know which spices and flavors work well with different meats and sides. I think that is the difference between a cook and a chef. Ingredients sent to our door help us learn more about ingredient combinations.

Save time: Finally, these meals options make it possible and relatively affordable for us to have grocery shopping and meal planning done for us. We can focus our time on the actual meal preparation and enjoyment with our loved ones!

Fun date idea: I have enjoyed cooking these recipes with my boyfriend. We have both been learning to cook together, and this makes it fun to try new flavors and meal ideas.

Live in the present: Cooking requires us to be focused. With all the distractions out there, it is important for us to recenter and live in the moment. Enjoy great scents and tastes in the process!

I hope that you take the opportunity to try the world with all the exciting new meal preparation options. Happy cooking!